This afternoon another pastor and I sat down with our stewardship team to discuss our proposed 2012-2013 budget. Our time together was most fruitful as we discussed over the course of an almost two-hour meeting items ranging from utilities and insurance to discipleship and mission partnerships, both domestic and international. I am grateful in a myriad of ways for these brothers and sisters. (1) I am grateful for the time and the intellectual financial intuition that each person gives to guide our church’s resources in a direction that honors King Jesus. (2) I am grateful for the willingness to listen and implement the proposals we bring to the table. Most notably this communicates that they trust the pastoral team, which, by God’s grace I pray I or any other pastor will not take for granted. In fact, to date, I cannot think of any substantive idea that I or any other pastor has brought to the team that they have not only unanimously affirmed but additionally sought to be advocates for, both privately and publicly. This presupposes a couples things. First, it presupposes that we as pastors have thought through things thoroughly. Had we walked into the meeting today and not poured over the numbers and ideas we were proposing to our stewardship team they would have seen right through us and appropriately called us on it. Secondly, related to the first but slightly different is the fact that we have always sought to attach a cogent and viable case for whatever we’re proposing. (3) I am grateful for the “spirit” of how our meetings are facilitated. Our meetings take on a “feel” similar to that of two good friends talking about issues that are very much important to them. So, for sure, this means that there have been some tense moments in our meetings, but the tenseness has typically not morphed into sinful dispositions or responses. I purposefully said “typically” because there have been times where I have responded sinfully (I know shocker huh?!?).
All that being said, here are some thoughts concerning a church’s budget. These thoughts are in no particular order of relevance or importance and I’m quite certain are not profound.
- A budget communicates what is important to a church. Suffice it to say, if you, as a pastor speak about the great lostness around the world but there is a minimal amount of your budget allocated towards that burden than you and your church are not really burdened, at least not to the point where money is doing any talking. And we all know money talks.
- A budget is a highly spiritual document. Of course I don’t mean in any inspirational sense like that of the Scriptures but I do mean that even substantive line-items such as “general operating expenses” are a stewardship issue. For example, if your church spends a substantive amount of money on insurance or maintenance on grounds wouldn’t it be wise to be meticulous in your evaluation of whether or not you’re being the very best steward of the church’s money by being able to definitively say, “we are indeed getting the very best deal.” And wouldn’t such an answer be indicative of good or poor stewardship, which would certainly be God-honoring or God-dishonoring, and thus, spiritual or unspiritual? The answer is of course.
- If you’re in a position to exert influence in the development and presentation of your church’s budget and you’re not using that influence you’re just plain foolish. See the aforementioned reasons already stated.
- Planning and implementing a budget is very much a discipleship issue. Discipleship can happen in instances other than the one-on-one meeting with another brother or sister whereby you teach them about the Scriptures and point them to Jesus; it can and should happen as you walk through line-item after line-item with your stewardship team (or whatever your church calls it) and explain why you’re doing this or not doing that.
- Lastly, I believe a church’s budget is indicative of the pastoral leadership at that church. Yes, I am fully aware that it takes more time at some churches than it does others to exert influence, but my point is that a pastor should at the very least be attempting to wield influence in this area rather than abdicate it. Why? Because a church’s budget is more than a bunch of numbers; it communicates what’s important to that church. I pray that my church continues to increase in its intentionality of making much of our great and glorious King because He deserves the very best in every area of our church-life, even a bunch of numbers that comprise a budget.